This category contains the intention-setting ideas from the monthly newsletter.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Honor the New Normal

National Mental Health Month

The COVID-19 virus has taken a lot away from how we experienced the world in the past, so there is much to grieve.  And grief is heavy.  It can make us feel like we are walking in quicksand or moving through molasses.  Our thoughts lost in a thick fog.  It takes time to navigate all the emotions that present themselves and sort through the thoughts that grow from the uncertainty.

So to help us all move through the collective conscious grief the world is currently experiencing, I thought it was important to honor National Mental Health Month by looking for the silver linings Mother Earth is calling on us to see at this time.  After destruction, comes construction.  After the rain, comes the sun and rainbow.  After the dark night, comes the light of day.

So, take a moment to consider the following intention-setting ideas being offered to us by Mother Earth to honor the silver linings that may define our new normal moving forward:

  1. Better public health hygiene.  Consider the benefits of the international attention given to the proper way to wash your hands.  This ongoing world campaign has raised the collective consciousness to a new level.  Back in 2008, October 15th was designated Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness that washing our hands with soap is a key factor in disease prevention, specifically to reduce respiratory and intestinal diseases by 25-50%.  With the heightened level of fear currently, perhaps we are taking this advice more seriously and will continue the practice of frequent, proper hand washing or using the hand sanitizers that are being installed in more public spaces.
  2. Healthier greeting rituals.  Do you know the history of the handshake as a greeting?  Perhaps take a moment to do a little research on it.  From there, consider how you might want to begin your own ritual for greeting someone you meet for the first time without physical contact to reduce the spreading of germs.  I personally always struggled with hand shaking, especially when I had to be taught how to do it right!  I much prefer to use Namaste, the age-old traditional greeting in India.  Namaste simply invites the palms together at the heart center with the thumbs close to or touching your heart center (aka Anjali mudra) as you tilt your head forward and say ‘Namaste’.  Perhaps you might prefer the traditional Japanese greeting of bowing.  Either option will allow us to maintain the physical distance recommended while also demonstrating through our body language that we honor the connection to others.
  3. Respecting Mother Earth.  Someone shared something with me recently that moved me deeply.  I was reminded that the trees are the earth’s lungs, as they inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen (aka photosynthesis) for us to breathe.  With the increased worldwide number and severity of fires we experienced last year, we burned Mother Earth’s lungs.  So is it really so surprising that she would push back with a respiratory disease that brings us high fevers and shortness of breath?  She is crying out for our collective attention and respect.  And when we could not figure out ourselves how to work together to reduce climate change, she created a situation that no country could ignore and forced our hands to join forces.  With the drastic reduction in cars on the roads, airplanes in the sky, and boats on the water, look how she is rewarding us with cleaner air and clearer water.  And, although these observations will be temporary, might they be drastic enough to support major infrastructure and/or societal changes to support Mother Earth’s intention to help us thrive?  Might we all agree to set this as a collective intention?.
  4. Working from home.  The benefits are many, running the gamut from more individual flexibility to less traffic on the roads.  As we have seen through this crisis, we are finding news way of doing our jobs remotely.  There has been a significant reduction in severe car accidents, so much so many car insurance companies are giving people refunds.  Might companies embrace letting (us) introverts remain working from home on a permanent basis?  If this became the new normal, we would reduce all costs associated with onsite work by somewhere between 25-50% (the guestimate of the number of introverts), such as the wear-and-tear on our roads, pollution (both air and noise) office space, gas, and car repairs, none-the-less the boost in our mental and emotional health from eliminated time stuck in traffic and away from our families.  Productivity and job satisfaction has been shown to increase in an environment that supports less distractions and sick time is reduced.  And, oh by the way, less people in the office means less sick people in the office which equals less spreading of germs! What do we really have to lose?!
  5. Back to Basics.  This time has challenged all of us to really reflect on what we will end up missing in our lives by being forced to pause for longer than a moment.  It brings to mind the mantra, less is more.  It provides each of us an opportunity to create a new baseline measurement of what we sense feeds our souls versus simply filling our lives with distractions.  As we are finding ourselves getting back to the basics of what is needed for good physical health, including regular sleep, conscious eating and daily exercise, we can give ourselves permission to decide for ourselves what truly nourishes our mental, emotional and spiritual health,  Doing less and being more supports Mother Earth, reduces our stress, invites peace of mind, and supports a deeper connection with ourselves and others.  When we can learn to simplify our lives, living with less and loving the freedom it brings, we can truly understand that less is more!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Spread Hope

National Month of Hope

At the time of this writing, most of the country has been instructed to follow physical distancing guidelines and/or an order to “stay-at-home” to battle the unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Although such mandated imposed physical isolation guidelines may be critical to the physical safety and health of many during such a pandemic, it is wrecking havoc on the mental health and well-being of all of us.As humans, we all have a basic need for connection, as connections have been essential for survival historically.  We also have a need for meaning in our lives, having a purpose or reason to get us up in the morning and move us forward, no matter what chaos may be swirling around us.  Some of these basic human needs are being challenged right now.

So, I thought it might be helpful at this time to highlight the fact that April is the National Month of Hope and offer some intention-setting ideas to spread hope.  At some level, I don’t think the timing of these two events is ironic.  Mother Nature has always been the great equalizer and demands our respect.  It seems that when there is an extended period of a lack of respect, she stirs something up to create a global shift to wake us all up!

Now, more than ever, might be a time to re-invite such respect into our lives as it can be a powerful guide to our ever evolving purpose and subsequent behaviors.  Perhaps we might recommit ourselves to such purposes as a healthier world, a more diverse, interconnected community, or a more just society that works towards reducing the suffering of others.  When we are able to clearly define our purpose, it brings hope as it can anchor and steer us in establishing and working toward goals that bring more meaning to our lives.

In addition, there has been much research on the impact of connection, purpose, meaning and hope on our health and well-being.  Hope is the spark that ignites our internal fire, while having a purpose that brings deeper connection and meaning is the gentle breeze that fans the flames of that fire, keeping our light vibrant and bright.  Hope keeps the collective light on during the dark times of such a global shift.  So, what can we do to spread hope now to increase the current of connective energy needed to move us through these dark moments in time?  Below are some intention-setting ideas to try this month:

  1. Use Social Media.  Consider setting an intention to post words of hope on your social media outlet of choice.  Perhaps challenge yourself to see if you can do so for the next 30 days. Or you might share a personal story when you overcame a difficult time, providing a source of inspiration to others that might be experiencing an increased sense of fear and anxiety at this time.
  2. Write Cards or Letters to Loved Ones.  If you are not a big social media user (like me!), perhaps set an intention to write a card or letter containing words of hope to someone you care about that you are unable to see in person at this time.  Personal, heart-felt written words may provide a longer-lasting effect, as they are a more tangible representation of your connection, that is available to be read again anytime that person might need a reminder that they are not alone.
  3. Reach Out to Keep Others Informed.  Stress can tend to make us focus on the negative and fear can make us withdraw even more from the world.  The simple act of reaching out to someone to keep them informed signals to them that they are important to you, that they are not alone, and provides you with an opportunity to express your concern for their well-being.  Even if the information may be considered negative, the act of sharing it demonstrates that you are not only thinking about yourself, but are thinking of them.  During this time, if you come across some news that brought you a sense of hope, consider sharing it with others in order to remind them that not all hope is lost and this too shall pass.
  4. Contribute Kindness and Encouragement.  Say “thank you” often.  We are being asked to rely more on virtual communication at this time to stay connected, so consider setting an intention to demonstrate the power of a sincere ‘thank you’ in each connection you make.  Feeling heard and valued by others can bring comfort when we are feeling unsettled, lonely or scared.  Hearing words of appreciation encourages us to continue what we are doing and reinforces our sense of purpose, inviting hope (Helping Others by Providing Encouragement), acceptance and meaning.
  5. Take Care of Yourself.  The world needs us at our best right now, which demands us to step up our self-care efforts.  Taking care of ourselves empowers others to do the same.  Because many of our sources for connection and well-being are closed right now, consider returning to the basics of health and well-being, which includes sleep, eating healthy, exercising the body and mind, and deep breathing.  When you take deep breaths, it facilitates the reduction of negative stress chemicals in the body and supports an increase in the positive ones the invite calmness into your entire system.  From the emotional shift that is a result of your own deep breathing, you are in a better position to help others who might need some support in making that same emotional shift.  So, if you are one of the many of us that struggle to prioritize our self-care, perhaps set an intention to spend some time reflecting on what self-care means to you.  Unfortunately, many of us were taught to think that self-care is selfish.  However, as the airlines inform us during each flight’s physical safety instructions, we must put on our own oxygen mask first, before helping others to ensure we are available to help others.  So, when you are able to maintain your own health (emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical), it is much easier to support and spread hope to others!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Reduce Inflammation During Times of Transition

The experience of the season of Spring seems to reflect Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote above – and, no wonder, Spring might be the most eagerly awaited change of seasons of the year for many of us!

At the same time, did you know that it is also the time of year when suicides peak?

Researchers are beginning to uncover why this world-wide trend might exist.  Adam Kaplin, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, suggests that there is overwhelming evidence that links inflammation to depression and suicide.  One of the sources of inflammation is seasonal allergic reactions, with chances of depression being 42% higher for people with rhinitis.  So, although Spring may, at first glance, seem full of rebirth and like a welcomed time of transition, it too comes with the reminder that all transitions come with challenges.

So, although you might not be currently experiencing depression (or suicidal thoughts), becoming aware of the impact that inflammation has on the body and mind can help to support you through this seasonal change, as well as other times of significant change, such as navigating the stress of moving or from the loss of a job.

Please consider the following intention-setting ideas to support your immune system, especially when navigating transitional times which tend to increase the experience of inflammation in the mind and body:

  1. Nasal cleansing.  Consider investing in a Neti pot and trying a daily practice of washing out the irritants from your nasal passages.  Using a sterile water and salt mixture has been shown to reduce sinus inflammation and the symptoms of an itchy nose, sneezing, sinus headaches and the long dreaded sinus infections.  This practice can also be used to prevent and treat symptoms of colds and the accompanying inflammation, since it takes 8-12 hours for a cold virus to replicate within your nose.  If you are hesitant to try out this practice (and who wouldn’t be a little scared to fill your nose with water as we are humans for goodness sake and not fish!), check out some of the videos on YouTube to get tips on how to overcome the fear.  My suggestion would be to start a practice now before the pollen levels grow even more!
  2. Legs-Up-The-Wall.  Known as Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, this restorative yoga shape supports and strengthens your immune system, among many other benefits.  It can be done anywhere, including the back of any door in your home or office.  The longer you hold it, the greater the reduction in stress (AKA inflammation), in both the mind and body.  Perhaps holding this shape for 10 minutes each day for a week and sense into the difference it might make in your energy levels, clarity of thoughts, and quality of sleep.
  3. Alter what you eat. There is much written about the impacts of the types of fuel you add to your body, so it is not my intention to promote any specific “diet” out there.  I’m offering the suggestion to consider adding one or perhaps two new “premium” sources of energy to your existing routine.  For example, adding foods that are rich in antioxidants, known as polyphenols, has been shown to reduce inflammation.  These foods include onions and red grapes, the spice turmeric, and green tea.  Consider simply adding one of these each day for one month.  Another example is adding more omega-3 fatty acids, which includes olive oil, ghee, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel into your meals.  Now you can’t convince me to eat sardines, but I have switched over to ghee, so perhaps you might too!
  4. Immerse yourself in a Sound Bath.  What is a sound bath you might ask?  Well, it is an experience where you listen to sounds that are soothing to the nervous system.  Music has been shown to ‘speak’ to the body’s autonomic nervous system, the part of our nervous system that controls the unconscious functions of our bodies, such as our heart beat, and reduce the level of cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone).  It has also been shown to improve the body’s immune system functioning, have a positive effect on the brain, and enhance cognition.  Perhaps take a moment now and do a search in your area for the next Sound Bath event at a local yoga studio, health spa, or holistic practitioner’s office space and schedule it in your calendar.  If you are sensitive to sounds, consider trying a one-instrument sound bath, such as Crystal Singing Bowls or Gongs first.
  5. Practice meditation.  Both meditation and self-compassion practices have been shown to reduce stress-induced inflammation.  Consider finding an online self-compassion meditation that resonates with you and implement a daily practice, perhaps each night before going to bed.  If you would like to read a little bit more about how meditation reduces inflammation, check out this article from HuffPost.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas For Supporting Diversity and Inclusivity

Celebrating National Black (Afro-American) History Month!

Why is it important to promote Black History Month?  Well, I believe, as did Gandhi, that it is our ability to embrace diversity that reflects the highest aspects of being human and defines the very fabric of our nation.  This month is an opportunity to recognize the central role blacks played in our history of the United States.  This month has been set aside so that we may broaden our awareness, deepen our understanding and choose to celebrate and thank those contributors!

Consider the following intention-setting ideas to try this month in our efforts to elevate the collective consciousness of the world:

  1. Embrace Diversity.  Embracing diversity challenges our ability to accept and respect differences.  Each person is like a snowflake, unique yet similar.  When we lean into embracing our uniqueness, we also need to explore our differences in a safe and nurturing environment.  Embracing goes beyond simple tolerance and taps into our innate ability to feel empathy and compassion for one another as humans.  Perhaps consider a conscious practice to move from acknowledging to embracing diversity, such as:  1) Shifting the cultural value meter on the scale of dependence/independence to the middle point of interdependence, appreciating that all of humanity is interdependent; 2) Practice mutual respect when confronted with cultural practices that are different from yours; and 3) Acknowledge the institutionalization of discrimination which creates an unequal playing field.
  2. Own Your Bias!  We all have them!  We live in a judgmental culture and learn to compare ourselves to others from a very young age.  It is only through becoming more aware of our learned biases that we can begin the practice of discernment instead of judgement.  In addition, research has shown that we have a natural tendency to hide biases from ourselves.  So consider setting an intention to explore your biases, by visiting Harvard’s Implicit Bias site here and taking one or more of the online tests.
  3. Acknowledge Holidays.  Last month marked the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., with many businesses closed in honor of his contributions to the world.  How did you celebrate this day?  January also included the Chinese New Year (January 25th – a Metal Rat year!) – again, how might you have honored this holiday?  To support your expanding awareness of diversity, perhaps start by simply recognizing that people celebrate a variety of holidays and set an intention to take an interest in the traditions that are included in such holidays.  Perhaps you ask someone what holidays they celebrate and explore one ritual that is included with them?  Or you add some new holidays to your calendar and research them when the day arrives?
  4. Get to Know Someone Different Than You.  This intention-setting idea might be a little more challenging.  Consider actively looking for opportunities outside of your familiar circle to expose yourself to new experiences.  Volunteer work is a great way to find people of all backgrounds and abilities with similar passions.  Or you might invite a neighbor over so that you might get to know them on a deeper level, coming from a place of curiosity.  Travel also lends itself to exploring different cultures.  There are many benefits to leaning into our differences, including but not limited to reducing fear (think increasing love, peace and compassion), increasing creativity, and personal growth.
  5. Read ‘White Fragility’.  This book is written by a corporate diversity trainer (who happens to be white) with the intention to challenge the responses white people have when their participation in racism is revealed.  So, for those of us privileged white people (me included), consider reading this book to deepen your understanding how all white people are racist so that you might make different choices as you move through the beautiful rainbow world we all inherited.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Change

I believe most of us have thought to ourselves “I hate change” at least once in our lives.  And the message we often hear is “Change is hard”.  Perhaps it is these messages, thoughts, and/or beliefs that underlie the approximate success rate of 10% for the New Year resolutions set at this time of year!

On the other hand, we know that change is inevitable and constant – perhaps the only experience we can count on to always be there.  The hope that comes from the trust in change is that we don’t get stuck in a rut.  However, the universe invites us to be co-creators of the changes we want to make in our lives.  This co-creation requires us to commit to learning new things . . . whether that is to learn to do something new or to learn something new about ourselves.

We are very supported at this time to initiate the process of change due to the fact that we are in the midst of a current Eclipse Gateway.  Eclipses support growth and the 2 weeks between the Solar Eclipse (12/26/9) and the Lunar Eclipse (1/10/20) is a potent time for transformation and renewal.  So, if you might want to catch the wave of energy, consider trying the following intention-setting ideas to support change this month:

  1. Reframe Change.  Perhaps consider simply reframing change as growth – or a growth opportunity – as it will help move you in the direction of embracing change versus denying its value.  You still have a choice, whether to take the growth opportunity or not.  As we begin to lean into the process of change or growth, we must also recognize the loss it creates.  If we decide to try something new, it often means that something we were familiar with falls away, even if it is due to the limits of time or resources.  Therefore, it is important to honor our feelings around the loss and even doubt that might arise around whether we made the right choice for our growth.  In those moments, reminding yourself that all of our choices bring with them information to help guide us toward our highest good will soothe the doubt, so you can’t make a bad one!
  2. Embrace Emotions!  Fear is often underlying the sense of loss of the familiar and doubt in the process of change, so it is important to look fear in the face.  Remember, emotion (even fear) is simply [E]nergy in [motion], which means turning to look at it even for a moment, instead of distracting yourself or running from it, changes it immediately!  Inviting your greatest fear, and its various emotional friends, such as anxiety, anger, or sadness, to sit for a moment with you so you might listen to what it has to say, will begin to bring clarity around what it is that you value most in life, not what others have told you in the past.  Emotions are one of the most powerful guides on our journey to discover our highest self.  Consider allowing your emotions to participate in your decision-making process and use their energy to guide you forward toward fulfilling your heart’s true desires!
  3. Think Small.  We tend to set lofty new year resolutions and when we don’t experience immediate results, we might get discouraged, providing fuel to our fears.  I like to remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  So, perhaps consider a very small change you would like to make in your life, and put it on your calendar every day, so you can track your progress.  For example, you might decide to add more walking to your daily routine.  Consider starting with very specific, yet small goals, such as parking further away from the stores you visit, taking the stairs at work or walking around the block.  Then each day, check it off your list when you achieved the goal and celebrate in some way, even if only to say out loud to yourself “See, I told you I could do it!”
  4. Find a Partner.  Whether your heart desires more peace, health, happiness, clarity, or love, change or growth requires you to transform into someone different than who you are currently.  Having someone support you on your journey of transformation is very helpful.  This person can be a source of encouragement when you sense discouragement creeping in.  They can challenge the fear that works to disconnect you from your highest self.  They can help to hold us accountable as well as provides support when we do begin to sense the discomfort that comes with change.  Discomfort is part of the process of change so having a partner to share those experiences of discomfort with can make us feel less alone on our journey.  Consider identifying someone in your life that might be willing to be that support partner for you, someone that believes in you and will help you embrace the growth your desire.
  5. Visualize.  It is important to visualize the change you desire, because if you can’t imagine the change you want, how do you know what direction to start out in on your journey?  Visualizing the result of your efforts to change or grow will support the discovery process.  Remember too that discovery is not a linear, straight line.  Often, it involves taking a winding road that might make you feel a little lost for awhile.  In those moments of disorientation, bringing your visualization back into mind will remind you of the value of change or growth, deepening your understanding of your heart’s desire and refueling the process of change.  Perhaps consider a tool to document your visualization, whether it is to draw it out, write it down, or create a vision board, so that you might reflect on your heart’s desire each day.  This practice will ease the integration of the new steps you are taking to co-create the new you!.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Bring More Joy Into Your Life

This time of year can be stressful for most of us to say the least!  For some, including myself, it might also bring up memories of loss, family discord, and unfulfilled dreams.  So I did a little research on tools that have been shown to shift us into a space of joy and, when integrated into a regular practice, can make that joy more sustainable and available to us any time of year (also see my Reflections below on Positive Psychology).

To take a deeper dive, perhaps consider saving this website (https://itsallgoodhere.com/) in your Favorites and set a new year intention to explore these tools more.

In the meantime, consider the following intention-setting ideas to try this month:

  1. Positive Moments.  Consider setting an intention to identify at least one positive moment each day in the month of December.  You may consider it small, even insignificant, such as the first sip of your morning coffee or tea on a cold morning or climbing under the warm blankets at the end of your day.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you take time to reflect on that moment and hold the experience in your awareness, perhaps for 10 to 20 seconds.  Then, consider sharing that positive moment with someone.  If you do this at night and would prefer, you can share it on Social Media.  The act of sharing allows the positive moment’s effects to linger for longer, inviting a deeper level of positivity into the body and mind.
  2. Personal Strengths.  Another option to consider for setting an intention for the month of December is to identify one of your personal strengths and then think about how you used it today or within the last couple of weeks.  You can stay with one of your personal strengths all month and challenge yourself to identify multiple times/ways you used it or challenge yourself to identify a new strength each day, along with an example of how you applied it in your life.  Or it can be a combination of both, it is all good!
  3. Set a Goal!  Perhaps start by simply reflecting on how you felt the last time you accomplished something you set out to do.  Can you remember the feelings that come with accomplishment, such as satisfaction, peace, motivation, joy?  From there, consider setting one small, attainable goal each day this month with a further intention to track your progress.  It can again be something simple like making your bed, finishing that book that you started awhile ago or reaching out to a friend that you haven’t connected with recently.  The key is to track your progress, specifically to reflect on how many times you met your goal that day.
  4. Reframe Negative as Positive.  This intention-setting idea might be a little more tricky – looking for the ‘silver lining’ in what our culture might label as negative.  When we are able to discover some benefit from an experience that brought us some level of aggravation or upset in the moment, we are doing what is called a ‘positive reappraisal’.  How do we do this?  Well, it starts with identifying something, whether an event or a routine activity that we find distasteful, for whatever reason.  Perhaps it is doing the dishes or getting stuck in traffic.  From there, we search for how these things might provide us with some positive outcome that we simply have been ignoring or have refused to consider in the past.  So, for the dishes, we might reframe it as now I have dishes ready for the next meal or the kitchen looks more welcoming.  For getting stuck in traffic, consider that you have more time to listen to your favorite podcast or music.  The more you practice this skill, the easier it gets and you tend to discover multiple positive aspects to every situation!
  5. Random Acts of Kindness.  Honda does not have to have the corner on this market!!  And it doesn’t have to cost you a thing!  During this season of connection, consider doing something kind for someone else each day this month.  It can simply be offering a genuine smile as you pass them walking by, opening a door for someone, or helping someone carry their bags in or out of their car.  Remember to take a moment to reflect on what you feel afterwards, sensing how the joy you feel inside is spreading out and touching others!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Holiday Self-compassion Breaks

Once again I feel the holiday season crept up on me this year without a sound!  Although my eyes enjoyed the seasonal changes in nature and my skin noticed the chill in the air, my fine-tuned skill of denial also kept me from fully leaning into what’s to come.

Why, you might ask . . . well, it’s because my Perfectionist starts to get really loud at the beginning of November!  My “To Do” list seems to grow exponentially longer and, with the number of daylight hours shrinking, my energy level seems to decline.

It is at this time of year that I remember one of the things I am most grateful for in my life and that is my self-compassion practice!  And it is a practice, one that must be tended to on an ongoing basis to keep that harsh, critical voice of my Perfectionist at a low roar.

I also like to remind myself that I am not alone in this experience.  So, if you too experience a loud, critical voice inside of you, that tries to drive you to do more with less and sits in the shadows waiting to judge your every move, below are some intention-setting ideas to invite the more accepting, nurturing voice of your compassionate self forward:

  1. Honor your unique qualities.  Our Perfectionist part looks through the lens of what is needed for improvement while our Compassionate part looks through the lens of complete acceptance of who and where we are on our journeys.  So taking a moment to be proactive and choose to move through the holiday season from something inside of you, embracing your unique expression of you, instead of from that space where we feel pressured to do ‘it’ from an outside influence or pressure.  Consider trying this self-compassion break soon, before the rush of the season becomes overwhelming:  Find a space to sit for a few moments and invite your Perfectionist part to step forward.  What does it look like?  Let your imagination flow.  What does it sound like?  What does it want you to do?  What does it want to do to you?  Notice how your body feels when visiting with this part of you.  Let the images fill in as many details of what the experience is like to sit next to this part of you.  Now invite your Compassionate part to step forward.  What does it look like, sound like?  What does it want you to do and what does it want to do for you?  Again allow the images to flow to fill in the details and notice how your body feels when sitting with this part of you.  Now as you are sitting with your Compassionate part, ask your Perfectionist part what it is most afraid of and respond to that fear as if it was a dear friend revealing their deepest, darkest closet that holds this fear.  These two parts of ourselves often feel as though they are in battle and through this self-compassion break, they can realize that they both are valued and can be friends instead of enemies.
  2. Step-up your self-care.  The mantra that you will often hear me repeat is ‘Self-care is not selfish!’.  It is mission critical for survival.  So consider setting an intention now to commit to setting aside time each day for an act of self-care and while engaging in that self-care act, invite your Compassionate part to be present, reminding yourself that you deserve such care and acts of kindness.
  3. Accept your limitations.  Let’s start with the simple fact that we only have 24 hours in a day and we are all limited by this fact.  Now, start with an intention to not compromise on the number of hours you need for sleep during the holidays.  From there, begin to consider how you currently spend the rest of the hours you have each day, such as working, commuting, etc.  Inviting your Compassionate part to participate in this break, sense into what you are doing that truly brings you comfort and what does not feel good or healthy to you.  If you sense anything that brings you discomfort, this is an area for change.  When we act from a place of discomfort, even if the mind thinks it is necessary to please others, we are not serving the world or ourselves.  When you act from a place of compassion and comfort, even if it creates disruption and inconvenience to others, you are spreading true joy to the world.  And when you bring joy to what you do, it might surprise you how others will respond to this change. Remember, we cannot be everything to everyone, we can only be ourselves!
  4. Stop trying to digest other people’s energy.  When we become more aware of what our Perfectionist part looks and sounds like, we might realize that the critical voice inside is not our own.  If the voice belongs to someone else, such as your mother or father, then you can begin to accept that you might be carrying and trying to integrate or digest their stuff!  Inviting your Compassionate part to engage more fully in your life, you will be better able to discern what is yours and what is not.  Having compassion for others is a way of being of service, yet we cannot take responsibility for another person’s choices, including their intention for healing and growth.  When we are able to take responsibility for disentangling ourselves from the processes of others, we might just feel relief, lighter, brighter and more freedom to be ourselves!
  5. Use your voice.  Perhaps start with writing down what your Perfectionist part has been saying, what that inner critical voice has been saying to you repeatedly that you now recognize is not your own encouraging, motivating voice.  Then, for each statement that it makes, confront it, inviting your Compassionate part to assist with the words.  It might be something like “No, I don’t have to listen to you, because I don’t believe you anymore”.  Or, if your Perfectionist part keeps saying “You must continue to work very hard to be worthy of love”, then you might say (out loud!), “I’m worthy of love simply by being here.  I do not need to work hard to be worthy of love.  I am love!”  Perhaps consider taking such a self-compassion break under the Full Moon this month on the 12th, where you take what you have written down, use your voice to express your Compassionate response, and then burn what you have written down!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Honor Our Achievements

The Season of Harvest is Upon Us – Let’s Celebrate!

I had the pleasure of visiting the Kripula Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts for a day recently and participated in creating this sand mandala (below) or sacred cosmogram with a compassionate community of others raising awareness of something larger than each of our small worlds.  It was a reminder of the impermanent nature of all things – including ourselves.

As we move deeper into the Fall season, Mother Earth and her beautiful nature begin to remind us that we are all shapeshifters.  When we are conceived and born into this incarnation, it is the infinite universe manifesting into a finite human form.  And what we have to always keep in mind is that this incarnation is temporary, transitory and will ultimately shift us back into the infinite universe.  When we can truly embrace that, by divine design, we are all simply passing through this human experience, constantly in flux, growing, changing, transforming, we open our hearts up to embracing every moment as an opportunity to celebrate our lives.

So let this change in season, when nature offers its last harvest for the year before its annual shapeshifting where it begins to pull back within itself, shedding its last fruits, flowers and leaves, slowing its growth down, and turning brown and as the breezes begin to cool down, encourage us to honor the abundance in our lives by celebrating.

Below are some intention setting ideas to honor our personal experiences of shapeshifting by acknowledging, sharing and celebrating our own achievements:

  1. Reflect on achievements.  If I were to ask you right now what is the biggest thing you have accomplished in your life so far, what would come up?  Is it difficult to identify what you have accomplished, what you have done that might bring you joy when you think about it?  Does it seem that no matter how much you do achieve, it feels like it is never enough and you find yourself needing to accomplish more and more, until you feel overwhelmed and exhausted?  Well, you just might need some perspective that offers an alternative to measuring the value of your life by the number of achievements.  I remember when I was younger, I would tell people that I wanted ‘She was productive’ engraved on my headstone.  As I write this now, I am laughing at myself.  Perhaps set an intention to see your achievements in a different light, as ones that have contributed to your growth and transformation instead.  When seen in this light, failures might now be relabeled as achievements.
  2. Write down achievements.  After reflecting on those things that you have done that brought growth and change into your life, write them down.  Some of these life-changing events might be graduating from school, having and raising a child, buying your first car, taking your first trip, or starting your own business.  Keep this list out where you can see it every day . . . and set an intention to add to it, perhaps every couple of months or once a year.  Reminding yourself on a daily basis that you too are a shapeshifter will help to challenge those moments when you might think that you haven’t accomplished enough or feel a little stuck or stagnant.
  3. Share your accomplishments.  This suggestion might feel like I am asking you to brag about your successes.  However, many of us avoid sharing our accomplishments for fear of appearing boastful.  But keeping your achievements to yourself or minimizing them robs your friends and family from learning and growing.  It’s good to share such experiences with your loved ones as long as you do so in an authentic and humble way.  When we allow ourselves to tell others what we have achieved, we are letting them know that it is not out of reach or impossible.  In fact, we can inspire them to continue to reach for their own personal goals for growth and transformation and connect more deeply with what is really important to them!
  4. Celebrate moments of accomplishment.   As we move through this process of honoring our experiences of shapeshifting, we must not forget the celebration!  Whether it is folding the last piece of laundry after doing 3 loads in one day, getting to work on time after getting your kids dressed, fed and off to school in the morning, and/or after a long day at work where you finally finished that project that you have been dreading for so long, if you begin to experience a sense of accomplishment, celebrate!  Consider setting an intention to not rush onto the next thing on your “To Do” list without taking a moment to relish the fact that you accomplished something you set out to do.  The more you don’t sweat the small stuff and instead celebrate it, the more joy you will invite into your life and the lives of others!
  5. Celebrate milestones.  Last but absolutely not the least is the intention to celebrate any and all milestones in your life.  Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, plan to celebrate to commemorate your human beingness.  Some of us avoid doing so for fear of bringing attention to ourselves, again believing it might be viewed as self-focused or selfish.  Consider setting an intention to mark such moments in your life, whether you celebrate by yourself or with others, to remind you that the sands of time are flowing, moving, changing by divine design and you are too!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Self-care in Chaotic Times

It is so difficult to not be affected by what is happening in the world, especially when we are deeply aware of how interdependent and connected we all are.  We can feel small, scared, overwhelmed and helpless in such times of chaos.  We might think to ourselves “What can I do, I am only one person and this is so much more than I can fix by myself.”  Yet action, even the smallest of steps, is the antidote to such feelings and supports the flow of love and healing back out into the world!

One of the quotes by the Dalai Lama that might support our efforts to take some small action this month is “World peace begins with inner peace”.  September is also National Yoga Month, which might just be an ideal time to consider trying one of the intention-setting ideas for self-care to cultivate inner peace when chaos presents itself:

  1. Try something new.  If you already practice yoga, perhaps take your practice somewhere new, like outside in a park, or by a body of water.  If you typically practice by yourself, maybe consider joining a Yoga or Meditation MeetUp to sense into the powerful collective energy of such a group.  If you typically take a Vinyasa class, consider trying a different style, such as Yin or Restorative.  Maybe you have had your eye on a workshop around the new or full moons – make a step toward getting it on your calendar, whether this month or next.  If you don’t practice yoga, consider attending a Beginner’s or Gentle class, or an introduction to yoga workshop.  Yoga encompasses so much more than the shapes on the mat, so consider a group gathering that peaks your mental or spiritual interests!
  2. Share the gift of yoga.  If someone you care about is also currently struggling to connect with their core center of inner peace within, invite them along with you as you try something new.  You might frame the invite as their presence would be a great support to you to face the fear head on. Knowing you have each others’ backs can in and of itself reduce the level fear that comes with trying something new, even though we know it is good for us.
  3. Mindful minutes.  Throughout your day, consider committing to taking a mindful minute several times a day.  It does not have to be scheduled or occur at the same time each day.  Instead, perhaps having a Post-It note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder and then, when you sense your body and/or mind tensing up, stop what your are doing for a minute.  In that minute, you can simply acknowledge the tension, place your hands in a gesture of care to yourself (e.g., right hand over your heart, Garuda mudra, Adhi mudra, Hakini mudra, etc.), and draw your awareness to your breath.  Another way to practice mindful minutes is to give what you are doing your full attention for that minute.  For example, if you are washing dishes, encourage your awareness to focus on the details of the object you are washing, such as its size, color, shape, texture and material.  Offer it your appreciation for being a part of your kitchenware and its role in nourishing your body.  Another example might be giving someone your full attention for that minute, such as when you interact with your family at the end of the day.  This one can be more challenging as we often are planning our response after the first few words.  So consider committing to only listen and releasing the attachment to the almost automatic need to comment on what they are sharing.
  4. Practice kindness.  Toward yourself!  When we experience chaos, it rattles us.  Recognizing how this manifests in yourself, whether it creates irritation, fear, anxiety, self-criticism, withdrawal, and/or dissociation, is the first step.  With this awareness, you can begin to discover techniques that help to soothe those responses, such as deep breathing, yoga Nidra, creating, reading, and/or talking with yourself as if you were your best friend.  The kindness is creating space to offer yourself those techniques.  Consider this mind bender:  If we don’t act kindly toward ourselves, how can we expect ourselves to act authentically kind to others!
  5. Plan a gathering.  Surrounding yourself with your tribe, those people that are like-hearted and lift you up, is important to remind you that you are not experiencing this chaos alone and by gathering together, we exponentially impact the collective love, compassion and intention of peace that the world so needs.  Consider a gathering dedicated to exploring the world chaos a little more directly by inviting your tribe members to share how they know the world chaos is impacting them and their ‘go to’ act of kindness to self-soothe.  Perhaps ask some of your members to guide the tribe through one of their acts of kindness or listen to a yoga Nidra practice together and talk about the change it created in the moment.  Make sure to check back in with everyone at the end of the gathering and collectively set the intention to continue to share newly discovered acts of self-kindness, facilitating the flow with love from the inside!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Celebrating Happiness Happens Month

Starting from the humble beginnings of celebrating happiness on Admit You’re Happy Day on August 11, 1999, Happiness Happens Month is now a whole month dedicated to celebrating what makes you happy!

This movement is founded in the belief that what you focus on grows – energy flows where attention goes!  Understanding that humans are born wired for connection, it is also rooted in the science that emotions are contagious, especially when we embrace our innate ability to feel empathy for others.

And since summer is typically a time to slow down a little and have some fun, I thought I might offer some ideas to celebrate such a noteworthy effort and invite happiness into focus:

  1. Watch the movie ‘Happy’.  The movie ‘Happy’ might be a bit dated (from 2011), yet always worth a second (or third) look and is available on most streaming services such as Amazon Prime, NetFlix, etc. Set the intention to watch this movie this month and afterwards, take a moment to note if your perspective on an area of your life might have shifted.  And, if so, I would love to hear from you on how!
  2. Read a book about gratitude.  The benefits of gratitude are gaining traction in the scientific realm, so if you want to delve a little deeper into this pool of happiness, pick up a book on the topic.  One of my favorites is The Gratitude Diaries:  How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan.  Perhaps setting your intention to explore this idea by clicking on the link and dropping this book into your cart now!
  3. Try a mantra.  A mantra is simply a tool to help focus the mind and typically is practiced by repeating any meaningful word or phrase that resonates with and inspires you.  It can be your favorite quote, a line from your favorite song or simply a word, such as happiness.  Set an intention to identify a mantra and practice repeating it for one minute a day this month.  Don’t worry if your mind wanders away during the practice, simply return to the practice as soon as you notice the mind has wandered.  My mantra for the month is “Happiness is an act of courage”!  What’s yours?
  4. Do a good deed.  Personal experience and research has shown that humans feel good about themselves when they can help others.  This phenomenon might be tied to how we are wired for connection and born with the innate ability to feel empathy for others.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, actually small acts of kindness, including smiling at strangers have been known to support the growth of happiness.  Set an intention today to try it!
  5. Watch a sunrise or sunset.  There is something magical about watching the sun rise and set that is hard to put words too, perhaps transcendent, spiritual, supernatural, or mystical are some of the words you have used to describe such experiences.  For me, I think it is a reminder of how connected everything is, how interdependent and supported we are, which warms my heart and soothes my soul.  Set an intention to recreate this experience for yourself this month and notice if you might simply describe the experience as HAPPINESS!